September GBFD: beauty in the details

It sounds a bit noble and refined to study the intricate details but in reality the big picture is just a little too ugly to show.  Autumn rains have yet to pan out and the bulk of the garden has that end of summer- waiting to die- air to it, so with a garden full of drought stricken, end-of-their-rope plants, close-ups are clearly the way to go.

best deck plants

A wider view of the watered deck plantings.  With only a few weeks left before frost I’m happy to see my newest banana nearly doubling in size since its August planting.  I love watching those new leaves unfurl!

The closeups will hopefully be a celebration of the late summer contributions foliage makes to the garden.  Yes, I know we’re into autumn now but Christina over at Creating my own garden of the Hesperides celebrates foliage day on the 22nd of each month, and since that date is still a summer number I’m going to use that excuse to hold onto summer for just a few days past the autumn equinox…. well maybe just until next week when the temperatures look as if they’ll drop.

pink splash caladium

Caladium ‘pink splash’ enjoying the unusually warm September weather.  Just foliage color here and although my choice might be suspect it really is an easy plant.  Best of all no dropped blossoms on the porch to clean up. 

Most of the focus right now is on the tropical plants and annuals which are blissfully putting out new leaves regardless of the impending frost-doom.  Let me give them their five minutes of fame before they get thrown in the dark garage for the winter again.  I think I’ve shown the scented geranium ‘Lady Plymouth’ before, but with a pleasant scent and fine variegation it really doesn’t hurt to show it again.  Plus, I am one of THOSE people who think variegation makes everything better, so here she is again 🙂

lady plymouth geranium

‘Lady Plymouth’ perlargonium brightening up the front entry with its finely cut, outlined foliage.

Matt over at Railway Parade House and Garden might give a little chuckle to see such a small specimen of eucalyptus, but here in Pennsylvania I’ve struggled to get it this far.  Last year it was a small floppy mess, this year it’s a bigger floppy mess.  Assuming I can bring it through another winter, my hope is it will show a little backbone and put on some height.  The reddish highlights on the silvery coin shaped leaves are completely unique here and I love it for that… even if the color disappears against the gray decking and white railing.

eucalyptus cinerea

Eucalyptus cinerea, the silver dollar gum.  It has a nice eucalyptus scent when you get close enough.

Something else which is starting to grow on me are the cane begonias.  They always look good, the foliage is cool, and for me they are completely foolproof to overwinter (in an above freezing spot with no water).  All the leaves fall off and they look terrible but come springtime and April showers they leaf out as if only a week has passed.  When I was younger and growing up on Long Island I couldn’t understand why the Coe’s of Planting Fields (now an arboretum) would devote an entire greenhouse to these boring plants.  Twenty five years later I’ve finally figured it out.

limon blush coleus with cane begonia

‘Limon blush’ coleus with a silver splattered cane begonia.  The silvering may be faded due to too much sun and the lateness of the season, but the flowers still keep coming on this tall (4+ feet) specimen.

I’ll finish up with a few more begonias.  September is a few days away from becoming the area’s hottest September on record and practically rainless at just over 1/4 inch for the month, so again the potted plants are helping me keep my sanity.


Someday I hope to rediscover the tags which came with this plant, but for now the finely silvered foliage and discrete blooms earn it a home -even if I don’t have a name.

If I had more shade around here I would surely put these begonias to more use, but siting them is always an issue.  This pink speckled one never even made it out of the pot ghetto this year.  Every week it was another round of where-to-put-it and now I’ll just have to enjoy it as it is.

pink speckled cane begonia

Another unfussy cane begonia.  Most of it’s winter was spent bare root on a saucer in the back of the garage… which is not exactly what you’ll read in Fine Gardening but I like to test limits 🙂

Well that’s my take on September’s GBFD.  It may not be the perfect illustration of the contributions of foliage in the garden but it does show the contributions foliage has made to my sanity lately.  Give Christina’s blog a visit and see what others are doing in their own gardens with foliage this month.  It’s always a good show!

Garden Bloggers Foliage Day -Aug.2014

For nearly three years Christina of Creating my own garden of the Hesperides has been hosting the meme which focuses on foliage in the garden.  I believe her intention was to explore the important role which foliage plays in the garden, and remind everyone that although flowers often steal the stage, foliage remains to carry the show.  Going out this week with the intention of focusing on foliage surprised me in two ways.  First of all I always assumed I was one of those “immature” gardeners who always falls for the flash of flowers and doesn’t have much foliage interest.  That was wrong….  apparently nearly all flowers come with some kind of foliage (who knew!) and even the most flower blinded gardener will have foliage.  Secondly I learned another important revelation…. my garden looks much, much better in close-ups!

Powis castle Artemisia, snow on the mountain, nicotina, and Echinacea

I’ve grown Artemisia “Powis Castle” before, but never here in Pennsylvania. It was planted this spring and I love the gray foliage mixed with all the other stuff that seeded in with the compost. (fennel, nicotina, Echinacea, snow on the mountain)



Starting with A and Artemisia is as good place as any, and while we’re here I guess we’ll just keep going along the front street border.  Soil improvement this spring and moving things around brought in plenty of seed-laced compost, and “Hopi Red Dye” amaranthus is easy to spot with its dark red leaves.

amaranthus hopi red dye

Amaranthus “Hopi Red Dye”, as easy to grow as its more weedy relatives.

I like purple leaves, but I don’t think I can resist a plant with yellow foliage, and this “Golden Sunshine” willow was an impulse buy last year.  Rabbits mowed it down last winter but willows don’t sulk and this one bounced right back.  Actually I think cutting this one back to the ground each spring would probably be the best way to keep the bright new foliage coming.

golden sunshine willow

Salix “Golden Sunshine”… or at least I think that’s what this willow goes by.  I really need to have a better recording system for my plant IDs.

If pushed I might even admit to having too much yellow foliage around the yard.

arundo donax variegata in perennial border

Arundo donax “variegata” in the front perennial border. An explosion of color with “Black Knight” buddleia, pink agastache, and yellow fennel blossoms. Btw, the arundo is probably 8 feet tall and the butterfly bush 6. Also it’s unusual for the grass to have this much color so late in the summer. Usually the heat makes it go all green.

Here’s a little blue in the blue spruce I moved last spring…. and more yellow.

sumac tiger eyes with blue spruce

Have I ever mentioned my love for the foliage of “Tiger Eyes” sumac? It suckers around a bit, but in my mess of a garden that’s no big deal. I haven’t yet decided if this is a formal enough planting for the front of the house though.

A foliage post without mentioning a cyclamen is just crazy, so here’s my little c. purpurascens plant (probably two or three plants since I see at least two leaf forms).

cyclamen purpurascens foliage

Good things come in little packages, this cyclamen purpurascens is a baby at only maybe 5 inches across but it might be my favorite cyclamen right now…. I’m sure that will change as others appear 🙂

I took a lot of pictures so this may be all over the place, but I’ll try to finish up the front yard first.  Sometimes people think of hosta when they hear the word foliage, and I’ve seen them in a few gardens here and there (just a few!).  Here’s “August Moon” a favorite old variety which lightens to nearly white when in full sun.

hosta august moon

Hosta “August Moon” in one of my few shady areas.

Moving into the back near the (another yellow) sunflowers is the new heuchera patch.  Someday you’ll suffer through an all out heuchera post, but until they grow in a bit I’ll let you off with just one.

heuchera circus clown

One of several new heuchera plants, heuchera “Circus Clown” is off to a good start with a nice mulch and some much needed rain. It’s amazing how the colors on these plants change throughout the year.

The reason the heuchera can survive here is from the shade of a Seven Sons shrub/tree (heptacodium miconioides).  My plant gets cankers and loses trunks every now and then but I hope it someday gets past that.  Right now I’m enjoying the rich green of the curled stiff leaves.  Kind of a coarse look, but for a guy with so many cannas and dahlias refinement isn’t one of my strong points.

heptacodium miconioides leaves

Heptacodium miconioides leaves against a perfectly clear blue sky.

Enough with the babbling.  Look but don’t touch.

Ptilostemon diacantha

Ptilostemon diacantha with verbena bonariensis blossoms. Of course this is where all the missed baseballs end up rolling.

Almost good enough to eat, plants in the vegetable garden (or potager when I’m feeling fancy) also can put on a good show.

red cabbage and fig leaves

Red cabbage and fig leaves, the fig would be happier in Christina’s Mediterranean garden but it hangs on here and the perfectly cut leaves make up for not getting any actual figs 🙂

Not all the foliage news is good.  Miscanthus giganteus was off to a good start but our dry spell threw it for a loop and killed off all the lower leaves.

miscanthus giganteus

Miscanthus giganteus wants the steady moisture which I’m too frugal to supply. It might be easier to get something else for this spot.

Back by the house is a panicum “Cloud Nine” which is much more comfortable with drought.  I hate this bed and constantly neglect it, but nature did its own thing and filled the gaps with rudbeckia, phlox, and patrina scabiosifolia seedlings.  Sure beats the boring mulch I had there before.

panicum cloud nine with patrina

The stepchild bed with Patrina, panicum, rudbeckia, and phlox.

So much for anything that even approaches subtlety.  My tropicals come next, and first off are the geraniums (pelargoniums) which in my delusion and denial I have added to the overwinter and collect list.

zonal geranium

I have to dig up the name for this one, it’s in its second or third year with me and keeps looking better.

A scented leaved geranium (pelargonium actually) with cut leaves, variegation and scent.  Too much or something for everyone?

scented leaf geranium

This scented geranium is another plant who’s ID is lost in the pot-full-o-tags database. I should probably work on that.

Another one to overwinter in the garage, my first aeonium is looking well.  Hopefully it can handle the high-water location I planted it in -a pot with a variegated hebe and cape fuschia (phygelia).

aeonium with variegated hebe

This one’s label must still be near the top of the tag bucket since it’s a new purchase. A good gardener would go out there, find it and label it…. but all I’ve got for you is it’s not “Schwarzkopf”.

Now to wrap things up (so I can finally get to work on the stupid basement tiling job I started) here are my foliage stars.

canna tropicana

Canna “Tropicana” might be the most obscene show of gaudy color in my garden. I love it with the dahlias and rudbeckia.   Good thing there’s some green nearby to calm things down.

Morning light on the sunflower patch.

canna in the garden

My ‘Polish cannas’ were a gift which traces it’s history back to a friend’s old Polish neighbor. It’s probably really canna indica “purpurea” or “Russian red”.

And same cannas at noon.  A sculptural plant I think.

canna with perennials

The small blooms aren’t much for a flower lover, but they have a graceful look and the hummingbirds appreciate them.

So that’s my foliage, thanks for sticking it out.  I did manage to keep all the coleus out (but of course there’s still all of September for that) and I hope that gave a little relief, but I was really surprised by how much color and interest I get from foliage.  Maybe I am growing up and my tastes are maturing…. but I hope not.  I like my messes of color too much!

Thanks Christina for hosting and thanks for opening my eyes to all that foliage does in the garden.